Dazed And Confused 16 Year Anniversary

Still the best film ever made about high school? I think so, I think so. AMERICAN GRAFFITI beats it for texture and character, but Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993) is so unsentimental I wasn’t sure what to make of the film on opening day. I’ve since come to see it as exactly that, unsentimental, yet subtly pivotal. And it perfectly captures the latitude of high school abandon on the edge of summer. Mercifully free of excessive 70’s paraphanellia (“Hey, look at my bell bottoms!”), the film is naturalistic to the era, with the community sanctioned hazing being the most disturbing cultural element. I remember the tortures inflicted on the meek and weak in school, so 1976 Texas must have been a teen sadist’s buffet, as the loose narrative evidences.

Linklater is the least show-offy director around, favoring a Bressonian languidity as befits his Austin background. Even the cast reflects actual teens who look real and often fragile. Who hasn’t seen or been involved with Nicky Katt’s party asskicker? And Matthew McConaughey’s affable, laconic Wooderson is the definition of a star making performance. It’s a very cool ensemble of eclectic actors. There’s a lot of good stuff in this great film, including the moment with Wiley Wiggins dropping into bed and headphones at the end of his wild night. The Criterion disc is the one to have, with a yearbook of extras, including an honest commentary by Richard Linklater on his travails dealing with the studio, a must for any filmmaker or those interested in the process. But DAZED AND CONFUSED was worth his struggle.

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